Working hard to reduce waste

Monday November 21, 2016 Written by Published in Environment

TE IPUKAREA Society Project Officer Liam Kokaua visited the Cook Islands General Transport (CIGT) Recycle Centre this week to see the work they are doing to reduce the amount of rubbish going into our Rarotonga landfill.


Recycling our waste is one of the best things we, as Cook Islanders, can do to keep our backyards and islands clean and healthy. Recycling will also assist in keeping our islands attractive to tourists, upon whom our economy depends.

Jessie Sword of CIGT provided a run down on the different products the Recycle Centre accepts for recycling. The Recycling Centre is open 5 days a week, Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm and Saturday from 8am to 12pm.

There is a small disposal fee applicable for all recyclable products. This fee assists the recovery of costs involved in the breaking down of the items into smaller components for ease of sorting, compaction and shipping it overseas for recycling into new products.

Some of the items accepted at the CIGT Recycle Centre include:

Batteries - Car/motorcycle  (price: $2 each) – In the Cook Islands, old car and motorcycle batteries are very common in our backyards. These batteries are highly toxic and should be taken in to be recycled as soon as possible. While sitting outdoors they can leak acid and poisonous chemicals into the soil, which can then affect human and environmental health.

Smaller household batteries ($2 for a shoe box full) – Small batteries are made of chemicals, such as nickel and cadmium, or lead and acid, which are extremely toxic and can cause damage to humans and the environment. In particular, they can cause soil and water pollution and endanger wildlife.

For example, cadmium can cause damage to soil micro-organisms and affect the breakdown of organic matter.

It can also bio-accumulate in fish, which reduces their numbers and makes them unfit for human consumption.

Jessie recommends that people with small batteries (AAA, AA, C, D, etc.) to store them in a small container such as a shoe box until the box is full, then CIGT will take the entire box for the small fee of $2.

Aluminium and Tin Cans (price: free) – CIGT will accept aluminium, tin cans and aerosol cans if they are clean and empty, these are compacted before shipping them overseas for recycling.

It is recommended that commercial businesses drop off their cleaned cans to the CIGT Recycle Centre and make arrangement for a regular collection service. 

For households, there is a proposal being considered where Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI) work with T&M Heather, who are the rubbish collection contractors, to incorporate cleaned tin cans into the Rarotonga domestic kerbside collection service.

E-Waste (assorted prices) – E-waste is any broken or unused electronic product, which includes televisions, radios, computers, printers, photocopiers and many other products.

This year a PacWaste project funded through the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) provided $17,000 to help remove E-waste from Rarotonga, which meant CIGT could accept E-Waste from the public free of charge until the funding ran out.

 A second funding round is proposed in the near future to continue on with the excellent response from the public in the appropriate disposal of their electronic waste.

White Ware (assorted prices) – white ware includes electrical products which are often white in colour, such as refrigerators, microwaves, washing machines, dishwashers and fans.

Sometimes these products are collected alongside E-waste, other times they are collected separately. Prices vary for these items, contact CIGT Ph: 24441 for details.

Scrap Metal and Cars (assorted prices) – CIGT also accept scrap metal, cars, old car bodies, and basically anything that has a metallic content.

The Recycle Centre has a car crusher/bailer currently on its way from New Zealand and should be fully operational by early December. CIGT will now be able to effectively address the car wreck problem on Rarotonga.

Sword puts it simply “recycling is the way to protect our future”. Today we live in a modern and materialistic society, where global factors influence our purchasing requirements. We depend on imported products to sustain our way of life. We now have many products with short lifespans, and all these products are eventually thrown out. Recycling is therefore crucial to ensure our islands, with such limited land space (only .01 per cent of our country is land!), do not end up surrounded by our own waste.

On a small island like Rarotonga, we need to keep an eye on how many new products we bring on to the island, and we need a reliable recycling programme to deal with these products.

Sword also aims to bring the outer islands on board to be a part of their recycling initiatives. Atiu will be the first outer island to start collecting and separating recyclables and shipping it to Rarotonga for export.

Sword expressed gratitude towards funders such as SPREP for providing funding to CIGT to allow for the free collection of domestic E-Waste.

The recent PacWaste project collected a total of 1143 items from households and 3325 items from commercial properties and Government, allowing for a total of 4469 E-waste items shipped off our island for recycling.

She also thanked NES and the Government for the allocation of $100,000 to collect and freight white ware products off the island last year, when 12 containers were exported with scrap whiteware products.

It is hoped that in the future, a perpetual fund will be allocated to manage the collection/export of recyclable whiteware / ewaste from our islands.

Sword supports the initiative of the Advance Disposal fee for all goods imported into the island.

This one-off fee would cover the repatriation of the product when it reaches the end of its life, and solve the problem of lack of funding for dealing with waste in our country.

Let’s start today to change our attitudes towards recycling and “do the right thing”!

Yes we can!

                - Te Ipukarea Society


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